Yes, the times they are a-changin in the basketball world. It was just 12 years ago when The Dream Team awed us on the biggest of stages in Barcelona. Players from all over the world seemed honored just to be on the same court with some of the legends of the game, from Michael, to Larry to Magic. And of course Christian Laettner (I'm STILL wondering how Laettner made that team instead of Shaq!!! Who cares if they already had Ewing and David Robinson?!??!). The US marched to glory and a gold medal, routing opponents with an AVERAGE margin of victory of 44 points. (Read that again. Let it sink in. 44 bloody points. Still amazing).
There was only one Dream Team, despite the fact the media continuted to call USA's international teams "Dream Teams" for years after. Reality has sunk in this year. All but 3 of the original 9 guys that were slated to play this summer have stayed on. And that's not to mention a host of other invitees that turned down the chance to play for their country. No Shaq, no Kobe (just imagine all the 19 year old girls he could have met in Greece--sorry), no KG or McGrady or Jason Kidd or even old guys who got invited and had no business being there like Karl Malone. All decided to stay home. The remaining group are eager, intense, and hungry to prove USA basketball is still the best. Yet they're also young, inexperienced (the current roster collectively has a grand total of ZERO games played in Olympic competition), undersized and lacking any real outside shooting threat. There's a world of potential on display, but against the old vets of such teams as Argentina and Lithuania, will it be enough for even a bronze?
A Dream Team? Hardly, but I'm still excited to see the league's three best young talents, the future pillars of the league, on display. Lebron, Melo and Dwayne Wade (who desparately needs a nickname. "Dwayne" sounds like that uncle nobody wants to talk about, and Wade sounds like a duck). All 3 made a splash last year in the pool of NBA legend, and those ripples appear to be just the beginning. What better stage for these 3 than the Olympics? If Coach Brown gives them enough time together, people will be talking about their coming-out party and Commissioner Stern will be wringing his hands with glee.
Yes, they're not the Dream Team, but the future is still very bright for USA Basketball, even if that means the US comes home with something other than gold this summer.
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